Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Mental Health Monday #8 | My Self-Harm Story {Trigger Warning}

Making the decision to write this blog post has been one of the most challenging things that I have ever done in my entire life. It has taken me months to build up the courage, as it is a very personal subject to me and I find it one of the most difficult, painful things to talk about. It has taken me such a long time, because I have battled with self-harm for a couple of years now, on and off, but now I'm 6 months clean and I feel as though I am strong enough to be able to confess my story. I feel so strongly about raising awareness for mental health issues, and as this is something that I have dealt with through experience, I can express my personal feelings, in the hope that it will not only raise awareness, but it may be able to help some of you, as the personal element will make my story easier to relate to. I won't be going into too much detail, but I have included a trigger warning in the title, in case some people find parts of my story too sensitive, or too upsetting, so please only read on if you know that you will be able to handle this type of content. Just put your own safety first before reading on.

Self-harm is when somebody intentionally hurts or damages their body. It's a way of coping with or expressing overwhelmingly painful emotions/thoughts. There are a number of different reasons as to why someone may start self-harming, but no matter what the situation, it should be taken very seriously. One of the most common misconceptions is that self-harm is only when you cut yourself. I cannot stress how false this assumption is. Self-harm can be anything from banging your head against a wall, to punching objects, scratching, burning, binge-eating, forcing yourself to be sick - it can be anything that is harmful to yourself in anyway. If you think that your life is in danger, (if you cut too deep, for example), then go to a&e or call for an ambulance immediately. It is so important that you are safe and any wounds are treated straight away. Whilst you are waiting for the emergency services or whilst you are on your way to a&e, try to apply direct pressure on the wound with a clean cloth or a tissue until the bleeding stops. At a life-threatening time like this, I think that it would be the best time to open up and tell a loved one. You can either write a letter to them, call them up, sit them down in private or text them - do whatever you feel most comfortable with. Try to stay as calm as you can and be as honest as you feel you can be. Your loved ones are not there to judge you. They are there to help and support you, no matter what the problem is and particularly if your life is in danger. If they were to initially react badly, just remember to remain calm and ask if you can talk properly about it. Remind them that it is not their fault, but maybe tell them why you are doing it if you feel it will help them to understand the situation a little better. They are there to help, not to judge remember.

The hardest, longest battle for me first began in 2013. After a roller coaster ride at my primary school, I was so excited, yet nervous to be starting at a brand new school. Having only one familiar face join me, it was a completely fresh start. I thought that things could only get better. Of course, I had my doubts, because any first experience is scary, but I held onto hope nonetheless. I struggled with settling in and making new friends, because I'm naturally quite a reserved, quiet person and I was even more so then. I did eventually get talking to people, but it was quite a struggle. 
Not many people liked me when I first started. Most people would pick on me, tease me for no reason at all, exclude me from friendship groups. I still vividly remember the residential end of year trip that we went on that summer and I was so incredibly low most of the time. From what I remember, I first cut myself then, but I didn't count it as a real cut. I was shaving my arms and I 'accidentally' made it bleed. I had a particularly hard week at the time, from what I remember, so I do think that was the beginning.

A little while later, things started going downhill again and it became harder for me to deal with my thoughts and emotions. There was a lot going on during that period of time and because I didn't really have anyone that I could properly talk to, I felt like I had to deal with it myself. Every time I'd try and open up to a 'friend', they would eventually end up leaving me and just stop talking to me altogether.
During that time, I felt more alone than I had ever before. All these emotions really hit me; loneliness, hurt, sadness, anger. But, I was powerless. What was I supposed to do? The way that I chose to deal with emotions and release the pain was through self-harm. I'd heard a lot about it during the end of Year 7 and Year 8, but no matter how hard things got, it was never a suggestion that had occurred to me. I just couldn't see why I would feel the need to do it. I was only 12, but although I knew people struggling, I just didn't think about it much at all back then. I remember questioning my friends as to why they were doing it. I didn't understand. Until I did it myself that dreaded evening.

The first time I properly cut was in November/December 2013, from what I remember. I was talking to my friend that evening and I was telling her that I felt the urge to cut myself. She was talking to me, trying to comfort me and encourage me to calm down, but I wasn't listening. The only thing on my mind was cutting to try and get rid of all of the things that I was feeling. When I  did it seriously for the first time (intentionally), I remember that I was in the bathroom, over the sink and I picked up the razor. I put my phone down, away from me, and I just stared at the razor and in the mirror for a little while. I had the door locked, as my mum and her boyfriend were downstairs in the kitchen. When I made my first cut, it didn't really bleed and I didn't feel that much, which startled me. I was thinking to myself, hold on, why isn't this hurting as much as I'm sure it's supposed to? So, I did it again. Not once, not twice, but about 10 times, all up my wrist. It did begin to hurt. A lot. But, it felt like the nice kind of pain, satisfying, like it was a release from all these built-up thoughts and feelings. Once I'd put the razor down, I felt quite shocked. Had I seriously just self-harmed? Did I actually just cut my wrist, on purpose and more than once? Of course, I had reasons for doing it, but that doesn't mean I wasn't completely baffled by the fact that I had actually done what I thought I'd never, ever do.
I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, as I don't want to trigger anyone, or make any of you feel uncomfortable or emotional in anyway, but it did get a lot worse than that. I continued to go through hell and I did, unfortunately, continue to self-harm. I would constantly have to wear long sleeves, even in the boiling hot heat, which did make quite a few people suspicious. Eventually, most people began to find out anyway. I told a select number of friends through trust, in the hope that they would be able to understand, or even support me, and I did get some support, but it still didn't make things much easier. As I said, eventually most people began to find out anyway and they'd be grabbing my arm, tugging at my sleeves and trying to pull them up, making me promise to never do it again and to stop doing it; but it was never that easy. It got serious at one point, during Year 8 (last year) and I think the cuts ended up getting infected, but I obviously didn't tell any adult, so I was never 100% sure. They went from the very start of my wrist, to the part where your arm bends, near the elbow.
I'd only ever do it on my left arm, on the wrist part, so that I could sometimes cover it with sleeves and bracelets, but I couldn't bandage my entire arm up when it got seriously bad, so that was a problem. I also remember that when I was in a really low stage back in Year 7, I'd follow accounts of genuinely depressed people, who would post upsetting, suicidal quotes and self-harm images quite regularly. I'd also look up sad hash tags when I went to bed every night and scroll through all these images and quotes, because I genuinely felt that low. It obviously didn't make me feel much better.

I'd often try and stay clean for a week or a month or so, but I'd usually always end up relapsing. I wrote a diary entry on the day that I relapsed. It was on the 3rd November 2014. It went like this, "Dear Diary, Today I relapsed. I cut my skin again. It feels like everything is just building up and I take so much but surely everyone has a breaking point and I will eventually snap? The ----- situation, -----, hate, isolated feelings at school and other things have just mounted up so much. I guess I just couldn't resist the urge anymore. I just wanted to do it again. To feel something at least. I only made a mark in the shower at first. Then about 10:15, I made about 10 cuts on my wrist. I felt the pain and I guess that was all I really wanted. It didn't exactly help me gain anything, but at least I knew when to stop. It hurts quite a lot, but I love the pain. Sometimes it's hard to believe it's like my addiction, considering I still can't believe I started, but oh well, it's done now. I miss ------ very much and especially this weekend/today. I'm gradually pushing people away and isolating myself, but oh well."
The reason I've put dashes is because I don't want to name any names, as this post is already personal enough! I kept trying to recover and 'fix' myself, but it didn't seem like anything was making the pain more bearable. I was stuck in a cycle of sadness, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and it was a huge struggle. A never-ending struggle that lasted for months on end. I couldn't see anyway out either.

It had gotten to the last day of December 2014 and I had finally decided that enough was enough. I couldn't go on like this any longer. It wasn't getting me anywhere, it wasn't helping and it was actually causing more damage than I had initially thought it would. Once you start self-harming, it can be the hardest thing in the world to stop. You get so used to doing something so regularly that it becomes a coping mechanism. I would continuously go back to self-harm if I was going through a bad time. It was the one thing that I'd return to rather than getting proper, beneficial help. I made the wrong decision. I was left with painful scars on my arm that would not heal and even more feelings that wouldn't go away. All throughout my time of self-harming, I would send emails to ChildLine about my issues. Just knowing that someone is there everyday can be a massive help to a self-harmer.

If you genuinely do want to recover and you don't want this addiction to carry on for the rest of your life, then you need to seriously try and stop. The first step is the hardest. Making the decision to actually stop harming your body is the hardest step. But it's the most important. If you can get through the first day, then you can get through many more in the future. The key is to take small steps. Start off by being a day clean, then a week, then two weeks and just gradually work your way up. Sometimes just getting to one day is hard enough, but I believe in you and you should believe in yourself! Anything is possible if you try your very hardest. There will be down days and there will be times when you just want to give up, eat tonnes of chocolate and cry into a pillow, but that IS okay. Recovery is never easy, but it is absolutely possible. Believe that you can do it and you will be able to get through it in the end. You need to accept that there will be low points, but you have to have the courage to pick yourself back up. If you have a bad day, then just come home, have a cry and some comfort food, take a bath and then snuggle up in bed with some relaxing music and a teddy bear!
Things usually blow over by the next morning, so distract yourself and find other things to do (watch a movie, call a loved one, have a pamper evening, bake some cookies) until you go to sleep! Try to stop thinking about self-harm, because there is no reason to hurt yourself over a temporary feeling/situation. Talk to someone if you are struggling, please. I promise you, it really does help to get things off your chest. Quite often, people take their emotions out on themselves, because they have no other way to get rid of them. So, talk to someone! I know it may feel like the last thing that you would want to do, but you will honestly feel so much better about it if you do so. If you feel like you don't have anyone to trust, then get in contact with a helpline through email, text, phone or letter.
You can always talk to me too. All you have to do is either dm me on Instagram (jademillard_), message me on Snapchat (jadeymillard_x) or email me (jade_millard@icloud.com) - I will always be more than happy to talk to you! It's important to have at least one person to trust, in my opinion. All you have to do is get in contact with me through one of the social media platforms and I will help and listen to any of you, regardless of what your problems may be. I know what it feels like to be self-harming and suicidal, I honestly do and I can truly understand that you may not want to tell anyone, but everything that you tell me stays 100% confidential, just between me and you. I only want to help as many of you as I can, because I don't want you to feel how I did for those horrendous years.

Life genuinely is too short and precious to be constantly harming yourself and constantly wanting to die. You are here for a reason. Your heart beats every single day and it continuously pumps oxygen through your body in order for you to survive. We still have our entire lives ahead of us. We could be professors, celebrities, role models, charity fundraisers, life-changers; we can be anything that we want to be. We all struggle and we all go through terrible phases in our life. But we have to have the strength to carry on and remain positive. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and those who are always willing to help you. So what if it's a stranger? At least you will be helping yourself and making someone else feel pleased at the same time. Do you honestly want to spend the rest of your life waking up, simply wishing for death to come and take you away> You would be distraught and completely crushed if you knew someone was harming themselves intentionally or contemplating suicide. You would most likely try and comfort them or find them support in some way. So why can't you allow yourself to receive that? Why are you so different to everyone else? We all make mistakes. We are all human. You are no less important than any other human being. We are all equal. We are all the same. We all breathe, we all live our everyday life, we all have a family or friends. We are all human. I know that you may think there is no escape right now, but I promise you, I absolutely swear to you, that things can get better.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we may be tested and pushed to our limits, but we are never too weak for anything. We can always find the strength to fight any battle we are given. We are all warriors and we are capable of overcoming any obstacles that may be in our way. Every single situation and person that you are faced with, you are faced with them for a reason. Every single experience that you have is used to shape the person that you are. Every single person that you come across, whether positively or negatively, will have an effect on the person that you have become. All you can do is make sure that you are the best version of you that you possibly can be and don't let anything or anyone get in the way of your dreams or your successes. There will, of course, be tough times, and there will be times where you feel it is the end, but you have to carry on.
You need to focus on building yourself up, focusing on yourself and your future and then radiate positive energy and kindness into the universe, as helping other people will make you feel better about yourself and your personal issues too. All of the terrible things that you are going through will actually help you in the end. Once you have made yourself feel better and you have shifted your negative attitude into a positive one, then you can focus on helping other people and spreading kindness, so that others can learn from your experiences. That's exactly what I'm trying to do.
I have had some horrible, horrible things happen to me during my childhood and recent years.
I can openly admit that I have struggled, I have self-harmed and I have been suicidal. But, I'm not letting that get me down and ruin my chances of a future. I'm going to take each day as it comes and try to make the most of every moment. Where will negativity honestly get you? It will just make everything 10000 times worse. Whereas positivity will increase your self-esteem, open up so many exciting opportunities, help you to make new friends, allow you to share your story and help others and so much more! If you are known as a positive person, you will have so many people that are inspired by you and who aspire to display your strength and positivity. Happiness is a choice.

Self-harm is such a serious issue and it is still such a taboo subject. There are so many people all over the world that have to deal with this issue and I cannot understand why there are still labels and misunderstanding attached to it. Whether a person is "attention-seeking" or not, they are still taking something sharp and intentionally dragging it across their skin, which is causing harm to them. Regardless of the persons reasons, that is not okay. It is not okay to dismiss that and pretend it's normal. Anyone who is going through mental distress deserves to get support and treatment.

If you are thinking about stopping or reducing your self-harming, then there are many ways that you can do so and there are many ways that you can get help. There is no magic solution, or quick fix. These things will take time, practise and patience. There will be days where you are in such a state that you will want to immediately harm yourself. Times like these, you have to take yourself to a safe environment (step outside alone, go to your bedroom, get in the bath, sit on an outside bench) and start thinking more rationally. Take deep breaths, in and out, in and out and calm down. Imagine yourself in a safe, happy place. Perhaps that's the beach, the countryside, your bedroom, or in any quiet area. Think about what you would do. If you were on the beach, picture the waves crashing calmly against the rocks, the light breeze rushing through your hair, the sand squelching beneath your toes. If you were in the countryside, imagine the breath-taking views, the adorable baby animals around you, the scent of the freshly cut grass. If you were in your bedroom, think of the protective, snuggly covers that are cocooning you from harm, the soft, fluffy sheets that feel like clouds beneath your body, the scent of the homely washing powder. Think of birds tweeting a happy tune at dawn, the sunshine streaming through your window on a summers morning, your pet sauntering in to say hello! Just think of all your happy memories and remember to keep breathing. Clear away all the bad thoughts from your mind. Imagine they have been washed away by a huge, overpowering wave. Try your very hardest to push away these toxic thoughts and only allow positives to enter to help you think rationally again. Don't do anything when you are in an emotionally unstable state (sad, traumatised, shocked, frustrated, worried, jealous) as you will most likely regret these actions later.
You should try to tell someone too. I know this may be the last thing that you want to hear, but I promise you, it will help you so, so much. You may not think it will right now, but I can guarantee you it will. Friends and family may naturally blame themselves at first and react in a negative way, but that's okay. It doesn't mean that you are to blame and they hate you. They may feel they have let you down by not protecting you, or being there for you enough, but after the initial shock has worn off, they will most likely try and comfort you or talk to you about it in some way. Don't be afraid; use this as your opportunity to open up and speak your mind. Even if you don't have a family member or a friend to talk to, there are other ways to get help. If you are at school, there is usually a counsellor or a nurse available to help you with personal issues/concerns. They are surrounded by young people everyday who are in need of support or guidance and so whatever you say will be no surprise or shock to them. They are there to help you. If you find it more reassuring, then you can ask them about confidentiality beforehand. They usually will keep things confidential, but it is always handy to ask. If you find this too difficult, then there is also the option of a doctor. They are a professional, who has had plenty of experience throughout their career and your health and safety is their main priority. They are under an oath to keep everything strictly confidential, so you know that your information will be safe. However, once again, you can ask them to reconfirm this if you feel necessary. You can also find help and support online. This may be through Mind (the mental health charity), ChildLine, Samaritans, Supportline, Young Minds and many other organisations. There is always help available.

Another way to help yourself is by finding distractions. This provides something else to focus on rather than simply thinking about the urges and the negative emotions. If you are angry, you could do a cardio workout, hit cushions, shout, dance or scrunch something up. If you are feeling sadness/fear, then you could wrap yourself up in blankets, cuddle something that brings comfort to you, listen to soothing music, tell someone how you feel, massage your hands, take a bath or watch your favourite film. If you feel the need to control something, you could write lists, tidy up, clench then relax all your muscles, throw out all your old things or burn items that bring you pain or frustration. If you feel numb, then you could take a cold shower, eat something with a strong taste or hold ice cubes.
You could also try to raise your self-esteem. Write down all the things you like about yourself, either your personality, your appearance or both and stick them around your mirror, switch your negative thoughts into positive thoughts, start to write in a diary and explore certain triggers and beliefs, or even create a box or booklet of quotes and happy memories to remind you of all the positive times.
Maybe you could also consider looking after your general wellbeing. Make sure that you get enough sleep each night, eat healthily and try to exercise regularly, find a creative outlet to channel all your energy and emotions into and also spend time doing things that you love and that make you happy.
I had a look on the ChildLine website and they listed 6 ways that young people feel are some of the best ways to cope. The first one is listening to music. Music can help you to distract your mind, as you will be thinking of the lyrics, or watching the video. You could even dance and sing along!
The second one is talking to friends and family. If you speak out, you will feel such a relief, like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. As much as you may think they don't, they care about you and they only want the very best for you. Your safety and wellbeing matters to them, remember.
The third one is writing down how you feel. I have done this before and I do find that it is beneficial. You can either write or draw, but channelling your emotions into a creative form can really calm you down and help you to think more rationally. Another idea is the butterfly project, which was created on Tumblr. The idea is that when you feel as though you want to cut, take a marker or pen and draw a butterfly wherever the self-harm occurs. Name the butterfly after a loved one, or someone who is encouraging you to get better. If you can't think of anyone else, then write down my name! You cannot scrub the butterfly off. If you cut before the butterfly is faded, it dies. If you don't cut, it lives. Another person may draw them on you. These butterflies are extra special and you could take good care of them. You could also exercise to take your mind off things and channel your energy or emotions into something else. The final thing that young people said is beneficial is holding an ice cube, which is what I suggested too. This can give a similar feeling to self-harm, without actually leaving scars or wounds on your body.

To anyone that is struggling with self-harm right now, it will get better. I know you may not believe me, but I promise you, it will all get better if you give it time. You are worth so much more than hurting yourself. I don't know the majority of you; I don't know your home lives, I don't know your past, I don't know what you go through everyday and I don't know anything else about you either. What I do know is that no human deserves to feel this way. No human deserves to hate themselves so much that they need to take it out on their own body. You are still going through so many changes. You are still growing up and developing. You still have your entire life ahead of you. Whatever you are going through now is temporary. The terrible memories, the constant battle with bullies, the abuse going on at home, the self-esteem issues. Whatever it may be, they are all temporary. One day, the memories will become distant, unimportant. One day, the bullies will get what they deserve and karma will come back to make them suffer. One day, you will move out of your family home and you will escape the battle that seemed never-ending. One day, you will learn to love and accept yourself.
Think of everything that you want to do within your life. Think of all the things you hope to achieve. I would love to get married and have my own family someday. I would love to travel the world. I would love to be able to write my own book. I would love to be able to inspire people. I would love to be able to change the world. We all have such a bright future ahead of us. How would you know what your future has to offer if you were to end your life now? You deserve so much more than this.
There are better ways to deal with your emotions than self-harming. There is a page on the ChildLine website which goes into more detail about how to handle your emotions. Here is the link - https://www.childline.org.uk/Explore/Self-harm/Pages/Self-harmcopingtechniques.aspx

Recovery can be a long, painful road, but I can promise you that it will all be worth it in the end. With the right support, determination, patience and courage, I truly believe that you can get there. Nobody said that it will be easy and you may fall down, or relapse a couple of times during the process, but then you have to find the courage to pick yourself up and carry on 10 times stronger. We all have down days. That is just a part of life. But, each and every one of us is so incredibly strong and we truly are capable of anything. I believe in every single one of you and I encourage you to start your recovery journey today. It won't be easy. I'm 6 months clean and I still have days where I cry and I feel the need to self-harm. But, I'm determined that I will get better and one day, I will be able to say that I'm recovered and I hardly ever feel the urges anymore. Recovery is so worth it, I promise.

Helpful Websites:





I honestly do hope that this post has helped some of you, whether you are struggling with self-harm yourself, you are in recovery, or if you know someone that may be struggling with self-harm.
I'm currently in recovery, so why don't start your recovery journey too? We are all in this together!
Stay strong, my lovelies and remember that anything is possible! You will be happier one day, I promise you that now. If I can do it, then really, any of you can. Keep on fighting. It will be worth it.



No comments

Post a Comment

Blogger Template Created by pipdig